Monday, March 13, 2006

Broken Record: Government Overreaching HURTS the War on Terrorism

I've written before, here and elsewhere, about how the government's "no rules" approach to fighting terrorism actually makes us less safe and makes it more difficult to convict terrorists. For example, the NSA's data-mining program has generated so many false leads that field agents don't have enough time to do the kind of connect-the-dots (as distinguished from "more dots! more dots!") detective work that actually cracks terror cells. I've written about terrorism defendants seeking dismissal of charges because of civil rights violations. And now, the WaPo reports that the death penalty case against 9-11 collaborator Zacarias Moussaoui may get thrown out because the government just can't seem to understand that we're a nation of laws:

A federal judge indicated today that she might throw out the death penalty case against Sept. 11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui after prosecutors disclosed that a government attorney had violated the court's rules about discussing witness testimony.

U.S. District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema called it "the most egregious violation of the court's rules on witnesses'' she had seen "in all the years I've been on the bench.''

Her comments came after prosecutors said a Federal Aviation Administration attorney had discussed the testimony of FAA witnesses with them before they took the stand and also arranged for them to read a transcript of the government's opening statement in the case. Both actions were banned by the judge in a pre-trial order.

You can't blame the judge here. Her order was standard-issue for cases like this, and perfectly clear. The people who violated it were lawyers, not laypeople. They understood what they were doing, or would have, if they hadn't let overzealousness -- fed by a culture of lawbreaking overzealousness from the Oval Office on down -- blind their good judgment.

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